Atlanta

Georgia officials working to clear 43,000-plus SNAP renewal backlog, processing rate falls 15%

ATLANTA — Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s warning to the Georgia Department of Human Services over complying with federal regulations of the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, officials have been working to correct problems with how the benefits are managed.

Data provided by DHS showed the rate for how fast benefits are processed, a key part of the compliance issue, had fallen another 15%.

Channel 2 Action News reported in November that federal officials were given a month to come up with a corrective plan for the “severe” issues they were facing, when it comes to complying with federal regulations.

In December, state officials submitted their plan to the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which governs SNAP, and the work was underway to correct what was described as a backlog in renewals for food stamp beneficiaries, as well as processing for new applications.

However, in mid-February, Channel 2 Action News reported that more changes were needed, according to the USDA, and that Georgia wasn’t alone, with 45 other states in need of correction to come back into compliance with federal regulations.

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More than two months after first being told to fix state error rates and improve timeliness requirements for the SNAP program, Georgia officials were told by USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack that more work was needed.

Now, the latest report from Georgia DHS shows the application processing timeliness rate, one of the key metrics flagged as deficient by federal officials, had fallen even further as of the end of 2023.

The USDA first ordered Georgia to correct its program management when the APT was a reported 84.9. Typically, FNS requires an APT of 95, though 90 is deemed acceptable as an “upper confidence interval.”

In December, the rate fell to 69.75, nearly 15% lower than the previous measure.

State officials said in the most recent update to the USDA, shared with Channel 2 Action News, that staffing remained the largest issue for correcting their compliance problems.

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According to that document, Georgia is expecting the state to improve its APT rate back up to 95% over the next 30 months.

The file said that the state had 892 case managers working on completing the processing needs for state SNAP beneficiaries, as of Jan. 9.

To address the backlog issues for renewals, 255 case managers were being trained on SNAP benefit renewals. In the meantime, Georgia officials said 26,000 renewals are pending and there was a SNAP application backlog of 43,555 as of Jan. 9.

DHS plans to continue working to relieve the renewal backlog until they’ve reduced it by 5,000 cases, then each district in the state will shift five of their case managers back to new applications.

State officials said the APT deficiency is a statewide issue, and that no district in Georgia has a 95% APT rate.

In simple terms, Georgia is expected to start taking more staffing steps regarding the renewal backlog beginning on March 1, according to the file, with an estimated completion time of December 2026.

Separately, the state said they’ve been approving overtime to allow case managers to reduce the backlog of both renewals and applications, which began in November 2023, with the overtime allowance to continue either until the overtime budget is exhausted or through June 30.

Once the full renewal backlog has been addressed, DHS will move all s taff back to their “appropriate roles.”

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